Not exactly the “jumping on the latest trend" type? Therefore, you're still a bit hesitant to get on the Node.js bandwagon? And this because you still haven't got some crystal-clear answers to your “What is Node.js used for?” question?

You're legitimately hesitant then! For everyone's gone crazy over it these days, but you know that there must be certain factors to consider.

Specific use cases for Node.js, as well as cases when... well... it just isn't the best idea.

You're well aware that there are some particular applications that call precisely for this JavaScript runtime environment. And you need to be 101% sure that your project fits the “profile”. The one of the “best use case of Node.js”.

But let's not meander any longer and get you some clear answers to your questions instead:
 

  • Why should you even consider Node.js one of the possible technologies to choose from for your next project?
     
  • Which are the ideal use cases for Node.js? 
     

1. Why Would You (Even) Consider Node.js for Your Project? 

Why should Node.js be on your list of... options, in the first place? On your shortlist of technologies that might power your next project?

There must be some “bundles of convenience”, some major benefits that you can “reap” from using it, right? Benefits that make it worth building your project using this specific environment.

Well, let us shed some light on these clear advantages of developing your application in Node.js:
 

  1. it's a Google JavaScript engine (a runtime environment) which, translated into clear benefits, means that: it's fast and scalable web apps that you'll build using it
     
  2. speaking of its scalability: Node.js's built to scale on individual process basis and to leverage multi-core processing on modern servers (via its Cluster module)
     
  3. it's JavaScript-based... so the “pool” of developers with some kind of JS knowledge/expertise is conveniently large: 99,9% of them know at least “some” JavaScript
     
  4. … no to say that this turns Node.js into the perfect choice if there are beginner developers in your team (even junior developers are at least familiarized with JS)
     
  5. any developer will be able to gain a quick understanding of your Node.js app's codebase
     
  6. it speeds up developers' work with a collection of modules (Grunt, NPM etc.)
     
  7. it provides your development team with a great package manager, npm, with a widely available and increasingly heavy “load” of open-source tools 
     
  8. it's backed and actively maintained by an ever-growing community ready to... support you; the knowledge base that your development team needs to get a grip on Node.js is accessible and... free
     
  9. it's open source: you'll benefit from a single, free codebase 
     
  10. it's just... fast, there's no point in debating over this: the event loop and Google's innovative technologies are “turbocharging” it
     
  11. it cuts down costs, as simple as that: Node.js enables your team to use the same language on the front-end and on the back-end, which translates into boosted efficiency, cross-functionality and implicitly... reduced costs
     
  12. you're “tempted” with a whole range of hosting options to select from
     
  13. it supports native JSON: it's in this specific format that you'll get to keep your data stored in your
    database
     

Now if I was to trim this list to just 3 answers to your “what is Node.js used for?” dilemma, it's these 3 key benefits that I'd stubbornly stick to:
 

  • performance: Node.js is simply... fast, faster than other JS languages; moreover, as a runtime language it has enhanced JavaScript with new capabilities
  • versatility: from back-end, to front-end apps, to clips to... pretty much everything in between, Node.js enables you to build any kind of project that you have in mind; as long as it's written in JavaScript, of course
  • agility: regardless of your/your team's level of JavaScript expertise, Node.js empowers you to kick-start your project, to get it up and running in no time; it's developer productivity-oriented (just think same language for both back-end and front-end!!!), with a low learning curve 
     

2. What is Node.js Used for? 7 Great Use Cases

Now back to the very question that started this post:

“What exactly is Node.js good/used for?”

There are specific app projects that this server-side JavaScript technology makes the best choice for:

2.1. Chat servers

And generally speaking any type of fast-upload system challenged to respond, in real time, to an “avalanche” of incoming requests.

2.2. Real-time apps 

This is the use case that Node.js “rocks at”. Where you get to make the most of its capabilities.

Apps geared at processing high volumes of short messages, where low latency becomes critical, make the best possible answer to your “what is Node.js used for?” question.

Here's why:
 

  1. it enables sharing and reusing Node.js packages that store library code
  2. it processes ideally fast: quick data sync between the client and server
  3. it's perfectly “equipped” to cope with multiple client requests
     

In short: if scalability and real-time data processing are 2 critical factors to consider when choosing the best technology for your project, think Node.js!

It's built to suit specifically those situations that are “overly demanding” of our servers.

2.3. Video conference apps 

...applications using VoIP or specific hardware. 

Projects involving intense data streaming — audio and video files — make the best use cases for Node.js.

2.4. Instant-messaging, live-chat apps 

2.5. Highly scalable apps

Think Trello or Uber-alike apps, that depend on a server-side server technology enabling them to scale out on multi-CPU servers.

Node.js, thanks to its cluster-based architecture, will always make the best choice for apps depending on a technology that would spread out the load across a multi-core server.

Note: speaking of scalability requirements, should I also mention that Node.js is... conveniently lightweight, too?

2.6. eCommerce transaction software and online gaming apps

“What is Node.js used for?” 

For powering apps for which online data is of critical importance. Like these 2 examples here!

2.7. Server-side applications 

Being an event-driven model of programming, the flow is determined by messages, user actions and other specific events of this kind.
 

3. Afterword

Does this clear the picture for you a bit more? 

As a conclusion or “final” answer to your “what is Node.js used for?” type of dilemma, the key takeaway from this post here is that:

Node.js is used primarily for web applications, but it's starting to get used more and more often for developing enterprise apps, too, thanks to its versatility.

What does the future have in store for this increasingly (still) popular technology:
 

  • rising potential for Node.js to be used for building IoT solutions
  • …. for “experimenting” with enterprise data
  • more and more big names (adding to Netflix, IBM, Amazon, Uber, LinkedIn etc.) choosing it over legacy languages such as Java or PHP
     

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